2016 C2C Graduation Remarks, Posted in Support of those Students Threatened by Trump’s Agenda

Introductory Note: In July 2016, I returned to Saint Mary’s University, CBU’s sister school in Winona, Minnesota, to teach in the Countdown to College (C2C) program. The program seeks to provide would-be first generation students from underrepresented groups a pathway to college. As part of the final graduation ceremony for students completing their 4th year of C2C before they head into their final year of high school, I was asked to have some of the students share from the work their prepared in our college writing course. I also posted my 2015 remarks here.

The election of Donald Trump has led to increased fears from Latinx students about the educational futures, as the president-elect has vowed to end DACA. To suggest the students granted DACA should be deported is to misunderstand their contributions to our society and economy. In hearing the fears of some of my CBU students in the past 5 days, I understand their fear, and I know that we must fight to preserve DACA and to offer sanctuary to these students.

In the spirit of standing in solidarity of all underrepresented students affected by Trump’s proposed agenda and in dedication to standing next to these students in the struggle to come, I share my 2016 C2C graduation remarks. We can learn a lot from the wisdom these students have gained in situations and neighborhoods that have already been too neglected and too dangerous.

Please call your elected officials and ask them to pressure the president-elect to preserve DACA so the hardworking students protected by it can continue to pursue the educations that will help them forge the more just future from which we will all benefit.

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Into the caldron: neoliberalism, ideology, education, and life itself (on The Whole Horse Project now!)

My August feature essay for The Whole Horse Project is available now.

Check it out: Into the caldron, ideology, education, and life itself

When opportunities to study race systematically are cut, then the university or state declares that black lives matter less. When opportunities to study gender are cut, then the university or state upholds patriarchy. When opportunities to study poverty are cut, then the university upholds economic domination. What remains is education for capitalism and for hegemony, preparing people to participate in markets and not disrupt them. – See more at: http://www.wholehorseproject.org/?p=311#sthash.kLQanocV.dpuf

Rethinking Grades, Part 1

During this week of unexpected time off due to snow days, I found myself thinking about grades. This time of the semester, faculty can submit early warnings, especially as we see which students are trending toward unsatisfactory performance or risking failure due to attendance. For students, the wakeup call comes now. I hope they will use the two weeks before spring break to refocus and recommit. The time off also gave me time to read two pieces juxtaposed this week, Chronicle Vitae‘s “Dear Student, No, I Won’t Change the Grade you Deserve” and “College Grade Inflation Means B is the New C+,” Allison Kite’s report for the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire republished in the Commercial Appeal.

As a professor, I feel solidarity with the professors and instructors quoted in the Chronicle Vitae piece. Grading presents the most challenging and most frustrating part of my job. In first-year writing courses, some students face a steep incline to adjust to college expectations. For work that might be satisfactory and meet an assignments minimal guidelines in addressing its purpose, students will receive grades and expect A-level grades for completing the assignment. In some cases, like the professors cited in both the Vitae and Kite pieces, I agree that student demands for better grades can be tied to feelings of academic entitlement. However, I also want to steer away from a belief that only students are at fault. Seeing the ways students in grades as early as kindergarten and first grade are prepared for and measured by high-stakes testing makes me realize that we have conditioned students from a young age to see their grades and test scores as measurements of their potential and worth. Moreover, state and university-level financial aid policies and scholarship programs often tie rigorous grade requirements to renewal of scholarships and grants. Students often find themselves in a position where satisfactory isn’t satisfactory enough. For universities–public and private–that are increasingly reliant on tuition, the pressure to retain students is also real.

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